One of the funniest parts of Tatler’s “Catherine the Great” cover story was the absolute insistence of so many “sources” that Kate was and is flat-out furious about the added workload now that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have exited. The story of an alleged added workload is not new – pretty much as soon as the Sussexit was announced, people have been saying that William and Kate would have to work more, that they could no longer hide behind Harry and Meghan, that all eyes were on them. What was new was Tatler’s claim that Kate is “furious” about “working as hard as a top CEO” and that Harry and Meghan have “effectively thrown their three children under a bus. There goes their morning school runs as the responsibilities on them now are enormous.” It was also funny to see the palace’s denial because… well, it’s clear that Will & Kate are under pressure, and they did it to themselves. They could have had two hard-workers to hide behind forever, but Will & Kate were too petty and short-sighted to see it.
Anyway, Harry and Meghan have not been working “full time” since last November. They did a patch of work appearances in January around the Sussexit, and then they did another group of appearances in March. And that’s it, that was their farewell. You would think that during that time, pre-pandemic, Will & Kate would have gone out of their way to reassure people that they were around, that they were working their royal fingers to the bone, correct? You would be wrong.
It was a claim that drew an unprecedented rebuttal from Kensington Palace: the Sussexes left the Cambridges in the lurch when they withdrew from royal duties. While the story was flatly denied, it did raise a question: just how much work are William and Kate doing?
Claims from an unnamed friend of the Cambridges in Tatler magazine that the couple cannot be hands-on parents because they are picking up Harry and Meghan’s duties are not borne out by the Court Circular. Figures compiled for the first quarter of 2020, when the Cambridges were active but the Sussexes had withdrawn to North America, show that William and Kate carried out a similar number of engagements as they had in the same period last year. In Britain, William carried out 44 engagements between January and March this year, one more than he did in the same period in 2019 despite the disruption caused by Covid-19 at the end of March. Catherine’s fell from 35 to 29.
Court Circular records compiled by Tim O’Donovan, who has catalogued royal engagements for The Times every year since 1979, show that the Duke of Sussex attended 35 domestic public engagements in the first quarter of 2019, falling to two this year. Meghan’s duties fell from 26 to one.
Royal commentators said that the Cambridges would inevitably have to take on more work not only because of the withdrawal of the Sussexes but the absence of the Duke of York, who stepped back from public life after a poorly received interview with the BBC over his friendship with the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. There are now 12 active members of the royal family, the smallest number since 2005. The bulk of the engagements are by the Prince of Wales, who carried out 521 engagements listed last year in Court Circulars, and the Princess Royal, who was listed 506 times. The Queen carried out 295 in 2019, a reduction from the 2000s when she would routinely do more than 400 each year.
To be totally fair – I don’t know why I’m such a contrarian, but here we go – Will and Kate have historically never been that active in the first quarter of any given year. It’s not that they worked a lot January-March ‘19 or ‘20 or whenever – they usually don’t “get going” with any kind of real schedule until March. Sure, they’ll do a few events in January and February but I can remember a few years where Kate has only done, like, two events by the time St. Patrick’s Day rolls around. But I take The Times’ point, which is just that: Will and Kate are just as work-shy as ever, Sussexit or no Sussexit. I think when the royals go back to having a schedule (assuming that would be this fall), people will be shocked by how little work Kate does. She’s always been like that – why work consistently when she could just do one or two events and send her people out to talk about those events ad nauseum for months?
Also, Meghan did more than one event in the first quarter. She did a blitz of events during her stay in London in March. And she did a few events in January. I would put her number closer to ten. I don’t know why Meghan’s actual events with patronages don’t count, yet Kate’s “private meetings” and Zoom calls count.
Photos courtesy of Backgrid and Avalon Red.